On the Tuesday morning after Easter I waved goodbye to my brother and nephew at Norwich station and wandered off to catch a train back to London. Last night I walked over to BestMate's in Plaistow and we had dinner and watched telly. Inbetween, I met and spoke to absolutely nobody I know. That's 15 days, 9 hours and 12 minutes of conversational solitude. And I coped fine.
To be clear, I did of course speak to people during my fortnight-plus social hiatus. I conversed with the lady at the till in the supermarket, and the newsagent in the kiosk by the station, and the bloke selling me a train ticket to Welwyn North, and the lady who wanted know the best way to Leicester Square, and half a dozen National Trust stewards, plus I said thanks to several bus drivers as I alighted. I also had four phone conversations during that time, two with my Dad and two with a friend, and engaged in several email chats. But for more than two weeks I didn't have a single face-to-face conversation with anyone whose name I knew. I wonder if you'd have coped.
Those of you with dependents probably can't imagine the opportunity to spend even a few days by yourself. Families, partners and live-in offspring make it nigh impossible for this situation to arise. Anyone with a job probably couldn't manage it either, as office and workplace environments generally enforce some kind of inter-colleague discourse. Ditto hospital patients, students, flat-sharers, gym-goers, team players, nursing home residents, club members, and the vast majority of the population. Only those of us who live alone, and can occupy ourselves independently, ever get to be so solitary for such long periods.
It's not always a situation people want to be in. The end of a relationship or the loss of a partner can leave those used to regular connections bereft of interaction. Widowed pensioners, especially those with mobility issues, can be plunged into miserable isolation after decades of dialogue. But I coped fine with my empty fortnight, getting on and doing my own thing, without ever climbing the wall through a need to outpour. You might call it crippling introversion or antisocial inadequacy, but I call it emotional resilience. I'm not saying it was ideal, but I survived almost without noticing how reclusive I'd become. Some of us can do alone without being lonely. Others are simply glad never to have to.